Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-03-023
Details
Synopsis: On Tuesday, April 23, 2002, about 8:10 a.m. Pacific daylight time, eastbound BNSF freight train PLACCLO3-22 collided head on with standing westbound Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) passenger train 809 on the No. 2 track at Control Point (CP) Atwood in Placentia, California. Emergency response agencies reported that 162 persons were transported to local hospitals. There were two fatalities. Damage was estimated at $4.6 million.
Recommendation: The National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendation to the Association of American Railroads: Report to the National Transportation Safety Board the milestones and activities needed for completion of the interoperability standards for positive train control systems and your priorities for completion of this effort.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Placentia, CA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA02MR004
Accident Reports: Collision of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Freight Train With Metrolink Passenger Train
Report #: RAR-03-04
Accident Date: 4/23/2002
Issue Date: 11/6/2003
Date Closed: 10/7/2005
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: Association of American Railroads (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Positive Train Control

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 10/7/2005
Response: This recommendation was one of eight related to railroad safety discussed at a Safety With A Team (SWAT) meeting by staff from the AAR and the Safety Board at a meeting on February 19, 2004. In addition, the AAR participated in the Board-sponsored PTC symposium on March 2-3, 2005, to further discussion and to focus on milestones and activities associated with the topic of PTC. The AAR has three committees and four task forces working together to develop industry interoperability standards for locomotives and communications systems. Board staff also contacted the chairman of the electronics task force for clarification of the standards process. The Safety Board also reviewed the AAR's Electronic Standards Tree, which is divided into five major subgroups including architecture, railroad communications, messages, archive, and other. The task forces have completed 11 of 16 standards. Milestones remaining include approval of (1) the remote control locomotive common error interface standard and (2) the data dictionary standard, which are expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2006. No task force has been assigned to the three remaining standards (office architecture, wayside architecture, and train control messages) due to a lack of resources, but the AAR projects that all remaining tasks will be completed in 2007. Completed standards are contained in AAR's Manual of Standards and Recommended Practices in Sections K and M. We remain interested in the progress needed to complete the remaining five standards. Please provide us an update when action has been completed. The information provided by the AAR satisfies the intent of this recommendation. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-03-23 is classified "Closed--Acceptable Action."

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 5/19/2005
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 5/27/2005 10:56:03 AM MC# 2050226 Your letter of January 25, 2005, to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) referenced subject recommendation issued to the AAR by NTSB on November 6, 2003. This recommendation was a result of your investigation of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) freight train collision with a Metrolink commuter passenger train near Placentia, California. It focused on reporting to the NTSB milestones and activities needed for the completion of the interoperability standards for positive train control (PTC) systems. To achieve this goal and satisfy the intent of this recommendation, AAR assembled the leading PTC industry representatives on June 22, 2004. These distinguished individuals presented the most current status of positive train control systems, railroad industry wide. Further, this presentation to NTSB was focused on meeting the intent of Safety Recommendation R-03-23. It was an extraordinary surprise when AAR received your subsequent correspondence evaluating all of our efforts with a classification of "Open -Acceptable Response." Shortly after receipt of your letter, AAR was invited to participate in the NTSB-sponsored symposium on PTC at your Ashburn, Virginia, facility. Again, we accepted your invitation and on March 2nd and 3rd of this year joined the NTSB in further discussions and focus of milestones and activities associated with the topic of PTC. Our participation in the NTSB PTC Symposium, along with our previous extensive endeavors for NTSB on June 22, 2004, now covers all milestones and activities on the topic. Our continuing activities with other railroad industry partners clearly identify the scope and focus of AAR endeavors. To more accurately reflect all of our extensive actions solely intended to meet your Safety Recommendation R-03-23, AAR perceives that the status of that recommendation should be updated to "Closed - Acceptable Response." Thank you in advance for closing this recommendation and for the continuing efforts by the NTSB in assisting the AAR to further improve railroad safety in our industry.

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 1/25/2005
Response: On June 22, 2004, AAR staff updated the Safety Board on ongoing industry activities related to the development of PTC systems. This briefing included a review of PTC projects under development. While we appreciate the briefing, we had anticipated a more detailed discussion of milestones and timeframes for the development and completion of interoperability standards, including activities that remain to complete this effort. As we noted in the accident report- "....one of the issues hindering development and deployment of positive train control systems is the lack of standards for interoperability. Such standards are necessary to ensure that the effectiveness of positive train control systems is not compromised by the sharing of locomotive units that is common among railroads." Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-03-23 is classified "Open--Acceptable Response," pending receipt of specific milestones for completion of the interoperability standards called for in this recommendation.

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 2/19/2004
Response: On 2/19/2004, Board staff met with representatives fromt the AAR to discuss this recommendation. The AAR agreed to provide a presentation regarding the milestones and activities needed for completion of the interoperability standards for positive train control systems to Board members. Mike Martino will try to schedule the presentation some time in mid March and will coordinate with Elaine Weinstein and Ron Hynes.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 12/16/2003
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 1/6/2004 2:21:54 PM MC# 2040002: I can assure you that the Association of Amencan Railroads and its members have been working and will continue to work on interoperability standards for positive train control systems. We recognize the importance of these standards but also recognize that in the ever-changing technology world that standards are never complete but are evolutionary. The AAR has been at the forefront of standards development for train control for nearly 20 years. In fact, the Advanced Train Control Systems (ATCS) led to the development and use of a wireless communications protocol that has been adopted and used for the Department of Transportation Positive Train Control Project. The ATCS standards led to the development of electronic standards for onboard systems including the displays now used on many road locomotives. A current effort is underway to significantly change those onboard standards to adopt new technology widely in commercial use today. This is but one example of the constant change and adaptation necessary to keep abreast of technology, particularly in wireless communications and computers, the basis for positive train control systems. The AAR is aiso working with the FRA on a project to develop a "universal onboard platform" for locomotives. This project, which is expected to last about 18 months, will use the AAR engineering standards and result in the implementation of two or more different train control systems operating on one onboard computer platform. We thinkthis will help reduce the high cost of implementing systems and will allow for adding future systems. There are numerous diverse train control systems already in place such as Amtrak’s Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System and New Jersey Transit’s Advanced Speed Enforcement System along with traditional cab signal systems that will require integration with other future systems. Locomotives seldom operate over limited territory and today can end up operating throughout the national network. The development of the universal onboard platform, therefore, is designed to allow for the integration of these diverse systems and enhance systemwide interoperability. On a regular basis, the AAR reports to the FRA Rail Safety Advisory Committee on Positive Train Control. Your representative on that Committee is Bob Chipkevich. This reporting will continue and so will the development work on the standards. If you have any further questions, please let me know.